You shall not pass!

What I learned Recruiting for the First Time

Over the past 2 months, at Meddy, we have been incessantly screening and interviewing candidates for our founding employee position — Full Stack Developer.

Getting people interested in working for startups is a challenge, and it’s even a bigger challenge in Qatar where the startup mentality is still in its nascent. Nevertheless, we screened and interviewed quite a few candidates from Qatar and abroad.

Something very interesting we noticed was the questions candidates asked.

The questions they asked and the way they asked told us so much more about them than looking at their resumes, cover letters, linkedIn, Angelist and Github profiles.

So I wanted to share some questions that we came across.

Here are the bad ones. Although, we liked that we got these questions because it made it very easy for us to reject them.

How much salary can I expect?

This was the very first question that some of the candidates asked. Now, we understand salary is important since everyone has living expenses. But this was a really bad question to ask because they could have easily found that out on our Angelist listing. So not only did this question tell us that money is the most important thing for them, but also the fact that he/she lacked basic googling skills.

Can I get more salary instead of equity?

We get it that equity is not going to help pay rent for the month. But it will help them buy a nice house in the future, hopefully ☺ This also made us question that the person is not in it for a long haul and might just bail when shit happens. Anyone who does not prefer owning part of the company reveals a preference for not being in a for a long term commitment and is not really interested in increasing company’s value overtime.

Here are not so bad ones that made us consider deeply if we should proceed him/her to the next round of the recruitment process.

Do I really have to move to Qatar?

Quite a few candidates raised this concern, they were really not interested in moving to Qatar, and wanted to work only remotely. Few of the qualities we wanted in candidates was someone who can take bold risks and willing to step out of their comfort zone. Lots of people are not comfortable moving to a new location. Although, we were okay with the person working remotely initially but eventually relocate to Qatar. But some of them just didn’t wanted to relocate. So we really didn’t wanted to work with a person who’s not comfortable stepping out of his/her comfort zone and embrace bold challenges.

Here are the good questions that led to some interesting discussions:

From whom did you raise money?
Preferred stock or convertible notes?

Lot of people usually ask how much have you raised? But very few asked from whom did you raise? The source of the investment is so much more important than the mere amount.

A couple of them got us even more excited by asking follow-up questions on whether we have raised on preferred stock or convertible notes? This shows that the person knows a thing or two about fundraising and startup finance.

How much runway do you have?

Another good question on startup finance that we liked getting from couple of people. Knowing the mere amount of the investment doesn’t tell you much. It’s extremely important to know the estimated cash runway, to get a better idea of the monthly burn rate.

What do you plan on doing with the seed round?

This kind of reminded us of our time when we were pitching for funding in front of investors, and they would ask what do you plan on doing with the money? And you’d explain the breakdown of proceeds — justifying how each of it is going to help you grow.

Some of the candidates had the audacity to say:

“I don’t think that’d be a good place to spend money on, If I were you I’d do X instead”

This got us really excited because we really did’t wanted a “Yes man” on our team. We wanted someone who’d question us on any decision we make.

What do you have on your product roadmap?

Since the position is an engineering position, some candidates asked lots of good question on features we want to build and how we’ll build them. This gave us a very good understanding of how a person thinks about a product? how he/she would go about using the engineering resources? and if he/she will do whatever it takes to ship on time?

Tell me more about you and your team? How long have you guys been doing this thing?

Having a strong team with complimentary skill set, in my opinion, is the most important thing. I think it’s even more important than having a good idea.

Some of the candidates asked more about our background i.e our education, previous experience building products, how do the founders know each other? They were interested in knowing if the founders trust each other and do they have complimentary skill sets? More importantly, I think they were interested in knowing if the founders are product driven and does at least one of them have a technical background?

Unfortunately, quite a few startups are started with non-technical founders who don’t have a clue about programming and building products, in general. Not to mention, some of them don’t even have a strong appreciation for engineers. The last thing an engineer wants to do is work at a place where his/here work won’t be appreciated as much.

We were glad this was not the issue in our case, since both of the co-founders have some sort of programming background and have built the current version of Meddy themselves.

Some really epic questions

Have you heard of X,Y,Z companies?

Some of the candidates did their homework and looked into our competitors. Quite a few candidates would ask how are you different from X? or have you heard of Z company? Most of the time we were aware of the competitors they were talking about but one of candidates found a really good competitor that we never even heard of! That was a little awkward situation for us…

Good questions usually came from people with prior startup experience. That being said, we had some college students asking really good questions who never even had an internship before.

Soon I’ll be posting a more detailed thoughts on we hired one of the best hackers we could possibility get.

I’d love to hear your experience being interviewed or recruiting someone.

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